Messages from Heaven

Messages from Heaven.

I lost my dad in 2006. My mother passed in December 2017. And then, a dear friend left this world in 2018. I remember lots of conversations I had with each of them when they were alive, but I also get “messages” from them now.

Unfortunately, Facebook wasn’t a thing when my daddy was living. If Facebook existed then, I didn’t know it. Daddy would not have been into social media, anyway… but if he had been around for Facebook, he likely would have checked it sometimes, just to see pictures of my growing daughter, since we lived 600 miles away.

But my mother and my friend who passed in 2018…they were into Facebook.

Today, as always, I checked my Facebook “memories,” where I get to take a look at my posts from the same day in different years past. No big deal, right? I usually laugh or smile as I scroll through them, and today was no different.

As I scrolled through my “memories,” I came across a post from this day in 2012. In the post, I asked friends to pray for a friend who was having surgery on that day. I read through the comments, and there, at the bottom of the comments…a comment from my friend who was having surgery…the same friend who passed in 2018. It was just one simple sentence, “Oh, sweet Kelly…always thinking of me.” As I read it, I could hear her saying it, and I got a little emotional. You know how we we think we have moved beyond grief? You know how lots of people don’t understand grief continues for an undefined length of time? Well, this is an example of how grief lingers. Who knew such a simple comment would make me miss her so much 2 1/2 years after her passing?

Once, when that same friend and I were walking to the car after spending the afternoon at the beach in Maine many years ago, we looked up at the sky, and we both had the same reaction. We stopped and gasped. There was a big hole in the clouds…it looked as if God might reach down through that hole and touch the earth. (It’s the feature photo, but the photo doesn’t really do it justice.) We called the scene “the hand of God.” Every time I see a similar scene now, I think of my friend and “the hand of God.”

Occasionally, I see comments from my mother on Facebook, and I have an emotional reaction to those too. It’s different than finding a note or card…maybe because it’s a reactive message? She’s reacting to something I posted on Facebook? It just seems more conversational.

And then there are different kinds of messages…

A few days before Christmas, I got a different kind of message from my mother…in the grocery store, of all places. I was shopping for all the things I would need on Christmas Day when I remembered we would also need bread to make sandwiches after Christmas, so I dashed around to the bread aisle. And that’s when I saw her…my mother…standing in front of the bread…and I stopped in my tracks. I took a deep breath and moved closer. Don’t freak out. It wasn’t a ghost. She wasn’t looking at me. She was trying to pick a loaf of bread, and I stood behind her, waiting patiently…and watching.

No, it wasn’t really my mother. It wasn’t a ghost. It was just a woman who, from behind, looked like my mother. She was short…about my mother’s height. She had her hair brushed in the same way Mother brushed her hair. Her arms looked just like Mother’s. She stood like Mother. She was wearing something Mother would have worn. I never saw her face, but I ended up behind her a couple more times before I left the store…and found myself walking out the door behind her! In fact, I took a photo of her and sent it to my brother, my cousin, and my aunt, all of whom reacted exactly as I did. They were shocked, but they were happy. No, it wasn’t my mother, but I felt like seeing this woman was a message from my mother…just a little “hello” in the grocery store.

A few weeks before that, I was in Michael’s Arts and Crafts when I rounded a corner and gasped audibly. Standing in front of me was a woman who, from behind, looked just like my friend who passed away in 2018. I saw her two more times in the store that day…and then, as I was walking out, I passed a woman who, from behind, looked just like my mother. I have decided she was the same woman who was in the grocery store a few days before Christmas.

I get visits from my daddy too. I’ve seen him walking across a parking lot, and I have seen him in the background of other people’s photos on social media. But usually, he visits in my dreams…always laughing and happy. The first time he ever visited me, I was dreaming I was with my little family at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, watching the parade. Float after float went by, and then suddenly, there was Daddy…waving big and laughing from the float. It’s something Daddy never would have done, but it made me happy that in my dream, I was in “the happiest place on earth,” and he was laughing and waving, letting me know he is happy.

Are these really messages from Heaven? I have no idea, but I choose to believe they are, because they keep my loved ones on my mind…and they make me feel connected to them.

I Can See Clearly Now

***I wrote this in September 2020 but never published it. I was afraid of the backlash, but it makes me a little happier to read it now. It’s a reminder that one reason we are having so much infighting right now is that we have lost our normal “outlets” for stress.***

I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day!

-I Can See Clearly Now, Song by Jimmy Cliff

This is how I feel today. I feel like the clouds have been lifted, and I can see the world more clearly than I did before. No, I didn’t have a cataract removed. No, I didn’t get new glasses. I’ve been feelin’ the pandemic blues for quite some time, and it was skewing my view of the world. I think other people are feeling the same thing. I talked to someone today who said he was happy to get to go to a funeral in another city, because it gave him an excuse to get on a plane! I didn’t go to a funeral, but I did get on a plane.

Go ahead. Scold me. Call me selfish. I don’t really care. Yes, I got on a plane, and while some would say it was “unnecessary travel,” I beg to differ. I’m guessing my husband would too, since I came home so much happier. We all make choices. I chose to get on a plane…and go on vacation…during the pandemic. One person on my personal Facebook page said I was “brave” to get on a plane right now. Well, I don’t see it that way. The way I see it…for the past few weeks, people have been brave to approach me, because I’ve been angry. Now, that’s brave. Usually, I’m pretty happy-go-lucky and don’t take myself too seriously, but this whole pandemic thing? Well, it had me downright depressed…and did I mention angry??? You name it, I’ve been angry about it. I knew I needed to get away. I knew what I needed to do to change my mindset, so I did it.

And when I arrived at my hotel, I cried. I promise you, I cried. I was that happy to be there. Make fun. I don’t care. In fact, I told the gentleman at the front desk of the hotel that I could guarantee one thing: no one in that hotel was happier to be there than I was. And I wasn’t kidding. I was on a high for five solid days.

Jennifer met me there. I’ve mentioned her before. Miss Merry Sunshine. Who better to have with you on your vacation during a pandemic than a person who is perpetually happy? She was there for two days, and I was there for five, but we enjoyed the two days we had together. We acted like teenagers…having lunch at a cafe on the beach. When I say it was a cafe on the beach, I mean our toes were in the sand while we ate fish tacos! We took the top off our rented Jeep and drove all through the canyons and took selfies with canyons and selfies with every beautiful vista we could find! We shopped! We laughed. We talked. We ate at a couple of “fancy” restaurants (outdoors, of course)…till we just couldn’t eat more. We drank a lot of champagne. And did I mention we laughed?

After Jennifer left, I dined at a few more “fancy” restaurants…yep, by myself…because I’m cool like that, and because I was just so damn happy to be there, and I was going to take advantage of every moment I had. I ate. I drank. I shopped more. I checked out sights I’d never seen. I met a friend and her new baby for lunch at an outdoor rooftop restaurant. I relished every moment.

When I got home, my husband said he felt like his “old” wife is back. That’s a good thing. That means the “depressed” wife is gone. No joke…staying home all the time was about to make me insane. I was struggling.

I’m putting this out there, because I think we all need to do what we can to become a little happier right now. If you love binge-watching cheesy TV shows, do it. If you like to hike, do it…find somewhere you can hike. If, like me, you need to get on an airplane, well, that’s up to you. I needed to do it. And I can survive on the joy from that trip for a couple of months…till the next time I get on a plane…at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving travel counts as “necessary” travel, right? To me, it does. And I’m taking my daughter with me too. The hubs doesn’t want to travel, and that’s OK. But when we get home, if the school tells my daughter she has to quarantine for two weeks, because they decided to change the “rules” after telling us they wouldn’t police us outside of school…well, so be it. Damn it. She will just go remote for a couple weeks. And frankly, I won’t give a damn…because we need a Thanksgiving break.

If you see me in the airport around Thanksgiving, that means you’re there too. Give me a wave or a thumbs up, and I can promise I will smile at you, because I’ll just be so damn happy to be traveling again.

As for now, I’m still on a “high” from this last trip. I’m smiling again. I’m laughing. I’m making fun of myself. I’m not taking everyone so seriously. I’m back to my old self. And it feels good.

Whew! We Made It!

Whew! We made it!

While it seems everyone is feeling like they “made it” through 2020, I’m feeling that and breathing a sigh of relief that I made it through the month of December. Sounds crazy, right?

Here’s what you don’t know: both my grandmothers died on December 26…in different years, but still, same day. Eerie, right? And then, my mother fell ill on Christmas Eve three years ago, in 2017, and was taken to the hospital. She lived a few hundred miles away from me, so I made it to her bedside the next day, Christmas Day. She wasn’t in great shape when I got there, but she was awake and communicative. My friend, Angela, brought me Christmas dinner to the hospital from her family’s gathering. I knew Mother was sick, but I didn’t realize just how sick she was till the doctor told me the next day that she was just getting worse. I understood what he was saying. I’d been through this before with my dad.

And then I realized it was December 26. I remember asking the doctor, “Is she likely to die today?” I explained to him that I was asking, because both my grandmothers had died on December 26, and if my mother died on that day, I would be curled up in the fetal position in my closet every year on that day. Call me selfish for thinking that way, but I’m just being honest. If every woman in my family died on the same day, I would be terrified every year as December 26 approached. Did I want to lose my mother? No way! I’d always known I had the best mother in the whole world, and I certainly didn’t want to lose her, but I really didn’t want to lose her that day.

Mother passed on December 30, 2017. She made it past the 26th, so now that day doesn’t scare me quite so much…but now I’m just terrified of the whole month of December. Does that mean I’m superstitious? Generally, I don’t think of myself as a superstitious person, but when I think about some of the silly things I do…maybe I am superstitious.

There are the New Year’s Day superstitions. Yes, every year, I eat black-eyed peas, greens of some kind, and pork of some kind. That comes from my parents. Every year, on New Year’s Day, we were required to eat at least one teeny tiny bite of each of those things. Black-eyed peas for prosperity. Greens are for wealth and health. Pork, from what I understand, is based on the fact that pigs root forward while foraging…by eating it we are embracing the challenges and adventures of the coming year. I’ve now learned I should also eat round cakes, pastries, or cookies…the round shape signifies that the old year has come to a close, and we have a promising new year. I’ve never done that, but I guess I’ll be making some cookies today. There are more superstitions for the new year, but those are mine…and now, of course, I’ve added the cookies. Ugh.

Other superstitions I’ve had in my life? When I’m driving and I drive under a yellow light, I “kiss the roof.” By kissing my fingers and quickly touching the ceiling inside the car, I’m supposed to make it through safely. When I was a kid, if we drove past a cemetery, we would hold our breath. We also didn’t step on cracks in the sidewalk, walk under ladders, or open an umbrella in the house…all bad luck. If a black cat crosses my path, I always say, “Damn that cat.” Supposedly, saying that will do away with the curse the cat put on you by crossing your path. Drive over railroad tracks? Lift your feet so you don’t have bad luck! I also use “knock wood” a lot…when I make a positive statement, I knock wood to avoid tempting fate or jinxing myself. I’ve been known to cross my fingers for luck, but generally speaking, I find that prayer works better. See a penny on the ground? “Find a penny, pick it up. All day long, you’ll have good luck!” Someone around me sneezes? I always say “bless you,” unless it’s a Spanish-speaking friend, to whom I say “Salud!” That’s supposed to keep their soul from escaping with the sneeze. (After a certain age, women aren’t worrying about their souls escaping when they sneeze…they’re worrying about pee escaping their bladders!) And here’s another one: don’t put your handbag on the floor…your money will go down.

So looking at that, I guess I am superstitious, even though I shouldn’t be. I’ve found several Bible verses that warn us against superstition, including 2 Kings 21:6, which says “And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”

I guess that means I shouldn’t be worried about the month of December, and I shouldn’t feel the need to eat black-eyed peas, greens, and pork on New Year’s Day. I will try not to worry in December and say lots of prayers asking for help with that. But honestly, I just like black-eyed peas, greens, and pork, so I’ll keep eating those on New Year’s Day and any other chance I get!

This year, when I finally went to the grocery store, they were out of black-eyed peas, so I had to buy a mixture of dried beans/peas for soup. It contains black-eyed peas, so we are covered. I threw in a little spinach, some fatback, and some ham, so we’re covered, but I’m also going to have collard greens. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the ingredients to make cornbread, so we’ll be missing out on that.

All this is my long way of saying, “Welcome, January!” and “Happy New Year!”

And I got a robe!

And I got a robe!

If you haven’t seen the Saturday Night Live sketch starring Kristen Wiig about Christmas morning, you’re missing out. You can see it here. Everyone is excitedly opening their gifts and announcing what they are…and the mom keeps saying “and I got a robe.” It’s funny in the sketch, because it’s an accurate depiction of Christmas morning for moms around the world. Typically, moms “handle” Christmas…in this country, at least. Ask my husband how many gifts he purchased and wrapped this year. My daughter purchased one (for me!) and wrapped it, but my husband didn’t purchase one gift or even assist in wrapping. He did put up the Christmas tree for me to decorate, but he didn’t help decorate it, and he didn’t assist with Christmas lunch either. I’m not complaining, though…that’s just how it is. I enjoy doing it, and since he would not enjoy it, I don’t want him to help with it. I think we are pretty typical. That’s why the SNL sketch is so funny.

I was texting with a friend earlier, and she told me she got pajamas for Christmas, but she didn’t get a robe. I told her I didn’t get a robe this year, either, but I would have been happy if I had! I love robes. In fact, all my friends know I have quite an extensive collection of hoodies, but they don’t know I also have quite a few robes…and I love every one. When I told my friend I also have a small robe collection, she called me the “Queen of Comfort.” I will take that title and run with it!

It’s good to be queen!

I won’t go into too much detail about my robes, but my oldest one is a purple one I got from Lands End right after I got married in 2000. It’s monogrammed, and it’s still in great shape…probably because it’s made out of indestructible polyester fleece. We could have an apocalypse, and that thing would survive. I also have a pink one (not polyester fleece) from my favorite hotel in the world and a white one I don’t even remember purchasing. And I have two robes that belonged to my mother. They’re both blue. She seemed to have an affinity for blue robes and pajamas (I have two pairs of blue PJ pants from her). When I wear Mother’s robes, I tell myself she’s keeping me warm. In fact, at breakfast this morning, I looked up to see my daughter wearing one of my mother’s blue robes…a fuzzy one. My daughter had no idea that she was wearing her grandmother’s robe, but it made me smile…especially since today is the third anniversary of mother’s passing. It seemed right that she was keeping my daughter warm this morning. It was a little glimmer of happiness on a day I dread every year. God bless Mother’s soul.

After my friend called me the “Queen of Comfort,” I started thinking, “Is there anything better than being the Queen of Comfort???” No way! I love to be comfortable, but I also would love to think I could be the Queen of Comfort in another way! I hope I am comforting to my friends and family when they need support. That is a quality my mother definitely had. She was nurturing, and she always knew the right thing to say or do to comfort someone. It could be a complete stranger, and Mother would know the right way to offer emotional support. It was her specialty. She died in December 2017, and for three years, lots of different people have told me stories of how Mother helped them in some way. I could only hope to be as comforting as she was. I know how comforting she was…she was my mother, and I always knew I was fortunate to have a wonderful mother who everyone turned to in times of need. God bless Mother’s soul.

While I know I do not possess the same comforting skills my mother had, I hope to develop them over time. I don’t know how to do that, but maybe it will be a personality trait that will come to me as I grow older. I’m “only” 53, so maybe by the time I’m 70, I’ll feel like a real adult, and I will be able to offer comfort and support to others.

And then “queen of comfort” would have a dual meaning! I will be wearing my comfortable, cute hoodies (and robes!) while I offer comfort to others. I wonder if a person seems comforting when they’re wearing a Travis Scott/McDonald’s limited edition hoodie? I think I can still hold the title of Queen of Comfort even in that, right?

But don’t worry. No one will never have to address me as HRH.

Goodbye, Christmas Tree (and goodbye, 2020)

Goodbye, Christmas tree.

We took our Christmas tree down today, December 29. I know lots of people leave their trees up till the Epiphany, but we don’t. Usually, late on Christmas Day, my husband will turn to me and say, “Can’t we take down the tree now?” I always manage to get him to hold off till the 26th, but that’s usually his limit. I guess the pandemic is getting to him, because I didn’t even have to talk him into leaving it up this long this year. But today was the limit. This afternoon, while our teenage daughter was at work (she has a job!), we took the ornaments off the tree, and I wrapped them and packed them up. We worked together, and within an hour or two, our house no longer looked like Christmas.

There is one lone present left in the foyer where the tree used to be. We gave my husband a fire pit for Christmas, and we also got him a box of firewood. The firewood is still in the foyer, but I feel pretty sure he will move it to the storage room in the pool house tonight. While I know the Christmas season isn’t over, at our house, the decorations are gone. Of course, over the course of the next month, I will likely find little touches of Christmas here and there, but for the most part, the decorations are gone. I did leave my “Christmas llama” out just for a friend to find when she visits! It’s actually a little Christmas decoration that’s really an Airedale Terrier. I got it the Christmas after my Airedale, Annie, died…just to remind me of her every holiday season. But when my friend was visiting recently, she saw it and asked, “Is that a Christmas llama???” I laughed out loud…so now I’m leaving it out just for her.

Tomorrow is the third anniversary of my mother’s passing…a day I dread. We will tell stories about her tomorrow and have a Bailey’s and coffee in her memory. I think of her every single day, and honestly, I probably say something about her every day too, so she is definitely remembered. My friend, Jane, calls and texts me all the time with stories about my mother, and my brother and I talk about her too. She is remembered well, and she is still loved.

And then we roll right into New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. We will be home for New Year’s Eve…as usual. We will likely have a cocktail or two and watch a movie. This year, we probably won’t be asleep before midnight, because we have to stay up till our daughter is in for the night, but we will definitely be in our pajamas. I have already planned ahead for New Year’s Day. Today, I made some bean soup that includes black-eyed peas and pork. I’ll cook some collard greens on New Year’s Day, and hopefully, all those things will bring us good luck, good health, and lots of money in 2021!

On New Year’s Day, I will watch a lot of football, and I will go back through all the Christmas cards we received this year. I love getting Christmas cards every year. I admire the creativity of my friends and family. Thank you to everyone who sent us cards. One friend made beautiful homemade cards from leaves at her family farm. Another made a cute postcard with a photo of her sons posing with a cool truck…I love the postcard idea. My honorary niece, a new bride, sent a beautiful card with a wedding photo. Lots of friends sent pics of their kids; I love seeing them grow every year. And one friend sent a Happy New Year card that featured her dogs. That description, however, does not do it justice. I loved the front…her two dogs wearing Christmas hats, sitting on her porch…one in a red chair and one in front of what appears to be a Coca-Cola themed table…Christmas lights wrapping the banister…with the words, “well…THAT was CRAZY! Happy 2021 (finally)” Adorable. On the back? She quotes John McClane from Die Hard with, “Welcome to the party, pal.” And there’s a photo that was featured in newspapers and online news stories all over the country in the late summer and fall…a long line of people waiting to get into Gallette’s, our favorite college bar in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. News outlets all over the country picked up the photo while reporting about reckless college students during the coronavirus pandemic. What they didn’t know was that several of the folks in that photo were actually middle-aged alumni…including my friend (and other friends too)! She drew a big red arrow pointing to herself in the line, and to memorialize the year, she also featured a picture of a toilet-paper themed cake…definitely a sign of the times.

So as I welcome in 2021 and say goodbye (and good riddance) to 2020, I’m feeling some pressure to do a better job on my Christmas card in 2021. Ours featured a photo of our teenage daughter holding one of our dogs on the front. When I edited the photo, I had to put glasses on the dog, because in the original, she had what we refer to as “devil-dog eyes,” as they reflected the camera’s flash. It looked evil…not a good luck for a Christmas card…so I put red sunglasses on her after the fact. The glasses were not creative…just a necessity. But in 2021, I want to do better. I’m guessing I should start thinking about it now.

Of course, tonight, I’m tired from taking down the tree and carrying all that stuff upstairs. I won’t officially start thinking about next year’s card till January 2, but I’m open to suggestions! In the meantime, enjoy a safe New Year’s Eve!

Happy New Year! And bring on that vaccine!

Garage Coffee

Garage coffee.

No, it’s not a brand of coffee. Although, I think it could be a cool name for a brand of coffee.

Over the past couple of weeks, since Thanksgiving, I’ve become much more paranoid about COVID. My behavior reminds me of my junior year in college. Up till my junior year at The University of Alabama, I was willing to go out to bars with a fake ID. Back then, in Alabama, if you were caught by the Alcohol Beverage Control officers (ABC) underage in a bar, you were arrested and taken to jail. When I was a freshman and a sophomore, it was a risk I was willing to take. But when I became a junior, and I was so close to my 21st birthday, it wasn’t worth the risk. I stopped going out to bars. My thinking? “I’m so close to my 21st birthday…I can wait till then, because I’m afraid of getting in trouble…when I can just wait a little longer.” So I waited.

Here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, and we are being told the vaccine is just around the corner. I know there are lots of people who are not willing to get the vaccine, but I am. I’m ready to start living again, and the vaccine is the only way I know to do that. And we are being told it will be available relatively soon. Just like my junior year and my 21st birthday, I’m afraid to risk getting COVID (I’m over 50) when the vaccine is in sight. Actually, I don’t want to risk getting COVID at all, but especially now. Call me a “sheep” if you want. I don’t care. I’m not staying home because the government is telling me to. I don’t think our government should be telling us what to do. I think it should be our own choice, so I’m not a sheep…I’m making my own decision.

In November, I was not as afraid, and I went on vacation. Yes, I did. I will admit it, but I was as careful as one could possibly be, and frankly, COVID was out there, but it wasn’t as bad as it is now. I made my child (who went with me) quarantine for two weeks prior, and I quarantined for two weeks prior as well…no lunches with friends, no coffee with friends in my kitchen…nothing. I didn’t want to get to our destination and get sick while we were there. I don’t want to be hospitalized anywhere…especially in another city. When we went to the airport, we found seats to wait in a secluded area of the American Airlines Admirals Club. We threw up a prayer and wore our masks for the entire flight. We stayed the first few days in a bungalow on the beach and the next few days in a bungalow at a hotel…very little close contact with anyone…and never in a crowd the whole time we were there. We had a rental car, so we never had to use Uber. We went to restaurants, but we always dined outside…never near anyone else. And on the way home, we found seats in a secluded part of the Admirals Club again. We have TSA precheck, so we never stood in a crowded line.

Even with all those precautions, if I had a slight headache or coughed at all during the trip or over the week after we got home, I thought I had COVID, and I was scared. Do I think I would die with it? No. I like to think I’m healthy enough to survive it, but one never knows. I feel sure my teenage daughter would be fine, and I feel like my husband (also over 50) is healthy enough to survive, but do we want to push our luck? That’s a resounding NO.

And right after that Thanksgiving trip, COVID exploded. The number of daily cases is climbing rapidly. I have talked to several doctor friends who tell me it’s “foolish” to gather. So I’m not gathering. I’m barely leaving my house. In fact, last week, I left my house a total of five times. Three times to pick up lunch, once to the grocery store, and once to run in Michael’s Arts and Crafts to quickly grab some yarn to knit Christmas gifts.

I like to be out and about, so that tells you I’m taking this seriously. I’m not staying home because of Governor Roy Cooper’s latest stay-at-home order. I’m staying home, because it’s just not worth it to me to catch COVID now, knowing I will be able to get the vaccine soon. I do not want COVID…it’s as simple as that. Well, that plus the fact that both my grandmothers died on December 26 (different years), and my mother died on December 30, 2017. I don’t want to push my luck.

That brings me back to “garage coffee.” Because I like seeing my friends…and I love laughing with them…I’m now hosting “garage coffee” at my house. I move the cars out of the garage and invite a friend or two (no more than that) over for coffee, which I prepare indoors and bring out to the garage for them. I set up rocking lawn chairs and heaters at our feet (it’s really cold in Charlotte right now), and we chat while social-distancing. It’s not as much fun as going out to lunch, but it’s better than nothing. I’m expecting a friend to come over tomorrow for “garage coffee,” and I’ve decided to add some Christmas music for our visit. I’ll just use my phone and my daughter’s bluetooth speaker to create a Christmas mood. Maybe I’ll set up my lamp from A Christmas Story and some of my light-up Christmas lawn decor in the garage just to make it feel more festive. My husband will think I’m crazy, but that’s nothing new.

If you’d like to have garage coffee with friends at your house and need a good, inexpensive space heater to put at your feet but don’t want to fork out a lot of cash, I purchased two Comfort Zone Energy Save Personal Heater Fans for $24.99 each plus tax and shipping from Target. Shop it here.

That’s how I’m surviving mentally right now…garage coffee. And I thank the Lord that I have friends who are willing to participate. Otherwise, I’d be losing my mind right now.

Come on over for garage coffee!

Virtual Christmas Cheer!

Virtual Christmas Cheer!

Flat Rock Playhouse, the State Theater of North Carolina, can lift your holiday spirits with a virtual Christmas show!

I’m no theatre critic. I don’t know my way around a stage, and I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I know entertainment when I see it/hear it, and Flat Rock Playhouse brings it! This year, they are staging A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas virtually. Yes, you can watch it from the comfort of your own home, while wearing your own pajamas and drinking your own eggnog…all by purchasing a link to the show for just $50 here. Think about that…your whole family can enjoy the show for $50. Make it a family night!

I became familiar with Flat Rock Playhouse several years ago when my friend, Linda Edwards, suggested I come see her in a show there. I knew Linda was a talented singer, but wow! She’s an incredible stage actress too! She has performed in theaters all over the world, and Flat Rock Playhouse is fortunate she is a regular there.

In all honestly, I haven’t seen this year’s version of A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas yet, but I feel safe recommending it, because the playhouse has never disappointed me. I’ll be watching the show this evening on my computer, but I saw it a few years ago and loved it. I don’t know if they use the same songs in each production of the show, but I know they do a fantastic job. I left the theater that year feeling full of Christmas cheer. There were uplifting songs, and there were songs that touched my heart…and it felt like Christmas. I had so hoped COVID would have been cleared up by now, so I could see this show live, but obviously, that was wishful thinking.

The show has received glowing reviews. The Times-News in Hendersonville featured a review by Steve Wong you can read here. In his review, Mr. Wong writes, “It probably took a miracle on Greenville Highway to pull off this first-time virtual production, but like it always does, Flat Rock Playhouse did it with good taste, talent, spirit and technology.” He praises the production’s creativity in filming the scenes in the yard of the playhouse and on the streets of Hendersonville in “purposefully ironic” casual clothing “as they sing and dance in the warmth of a late-fall day in Western North Carolina,” adding that when they are not wearing face masks, they are “all smiles and in step.”

Wong also praises individual performances, especially my friend, Linda Edwards, calling her “a veteran performer with a killer singing voice” and “a masterful standout.” I’m not surprised, of course. I’ve seen her perform lots of times, and she is always a standout, no doubt. A consummate professional, she takes my breath away every times she sings. She works hard, and it shows. I can hardly wait to see her virtual performance in this show.

This has been a tough year for us all, but Flat Rock Playhouse has worked hard to continue to present several productions…some at a drive-in theater, and this one, virtually. These folks are working hard for the money, and I commend them for doing everything they can to continue to produce outstanding shows. Support the State Theater of North Carolina by purchasing your link to A Flat Rock Playhouse Christmas here. Even though I’m saving it to watch tonight, I know I’m in for a treat. I will have my popcorn ready!

Get in the Christmas spirit with Flat Rock Playhouse!

*Featured photo from flatrockplayhouse.org*

Early Christmas Mornings

Early Christmas mornings.

I wish I could say I remember when our daughter became aware of Santa Claus and Christmas…maybe when she was two or three? I know her first Christmas, when she was just two months old…she knew nothing. The next year, 2004, she woke up and had fun playing with all the new stuff, but I’m not sure she was really aware of Santa.

In 2005, when she was two, she was catching on. She wanted to visit Santa in SouthPark Mall constantly…so we did. It was something to do with a toddler, and I was always looking for fu n…because she was not a napper.

Once she caught on that Santa came on Christmas Eve, she went to bed excited…just like so many other kids. And she woke up early…like so many others. But when I say she woke up early I mean my head had barely hit the pillow when she called down from upstairs.

The first year it happened, my husband was not happy. He heard her call for me…it was likely around 2:00am…and he groaned, telling me, “Make her go back to sleep till 7:00 or 8:00.” How exactly was I supposed to do that???

It was easier to reason with a grown man than it was to reason with a toddler, so I said to him, “No. If we get up with her now and let her see what Santa brought, she will play for a while and go back to bed…we will get to sleep a little later in the morning. Otherwise, we will be getting up at 5:30 or 6:00 for the day. Get up.” And so we did.

And I was right. She played for an hour (or two), and I took her back to bed and got to sleep a little later than usual. The same thing happened for several years, and every year, I had to remind my husband that it was just easier to go ahead and get up.

Last night, I saw a Publix commercial that was released last year. It features a little girl walking into the kitchen on Christmas morning, asking Grandma if they can wake up the others. Grandma says she has a better idea and sets about making pastries with the little girl. The sentiment is sweet, but when I was a little girl, I’d have thought my grandmother was just torturing me! What kid wants to hang out in the kitchen making pastries when there are gifts from Santa waiting in the living room???

I know everyone won’t agree with me, but when I was a kid, when we got up, we woke up our parents and ran to see what Santa had brought. I don’t think anyone could have stopped us if they had tried! But my parents never tried to stop us. I’m sure they thought the same way I did…”let them play now, and we can get more sleep.”

At around 7:30 or 8:00, Daddy would cook a big breakfast on Christmas mornings, but Mother always made the biscuits…her special recipe. We would hang around, talking about Christmas, and then we would all have a big Christmas lunch before we went outside to play with neighborhood friends in the afternoon…or as we got older, we settled in with the family (and likely a few friends) and watched football.

Our daughter is 17, so she knows the deal about Santa and no longer gets up before the crack of dawn to see what Santa brought. In fact, this year, she picked out most of what he will bring, but Santa tries to have a few surprises for her too. Christmas morning is not as exciting as it was when she was a little girl, but she gets the true meaning of Christmas now.

This year, at Christmas, it’s likely we will sleep in a little before we open gifts. We will have a little birthday cake for breakfast…it has become a tradition at our house. When our daughter was one, she asked Santa for a birthday cake, so we always have birthday cake for breakfast on Christmas Day. And after lunch, our daughter will figure out if any of her friends are available to hang out. My husband and I will likely watch football…any game that is on…just give us football.

Sure, as our daughter gets older, Christmas becomes different, but we enjoy being together. Is it as exciting as it was ten years ago? No, but it is more meaningful.

This year, we won’t get to see my brother and his children during the holidays, because of COVID, but we will make up for it in 2021…surely, the vaccine will make that possible. I haven’t left my house since Thanksgiving, except to pick up food…both my grandmothers died on December 26 (different years, and my mother died on December 30…I don’t need to get COVID and join them this year. The days between Christmas and New Year’s Day make me nervous every year.

So we will celebrate Christmas with our little family. Our daughter will likely spend some time with friends who had the virus a month ago, so I don’t have to worry about her. But no matter what…if she daughter wakes up at 3am and wants to open gifts, you can bet your sweet bippy that’s what we will do.

Stocking Stuffers 2020

Stocking stuffers 2020.

When I was a kid in Brewton, Alabama, we didn’t have a fireplace. There was no place to hang the stockings “by the chimney with care.” So we taped them to a door in the living room. Yep. Kids will be kids, and we wanted to hang our furry stockings that had our names spelled across the top in glitter, so we taped them to a door.

Most of the childhood Christmas Eves I remember were in the 1970s, and back then, I remember people mostly getting candy in their stockings. We would usually get lots of candy…no gifts…just candy. The gifts from Santa were spread all over the living room, unwrapped. Our gifts from our parents were wrapped and placed under the tree, but Santa didn’t wrap at our house.

When our daughter was little, Santa didn’t wrap at our house either. But after she had been in school a couple of years, she learned Santa wrapped gifts at other people’s houses and asked why he didn’t wrap her gifts. I told her to mail him a letter asking him to wrap her gifts. She sent the letter, and the gifts have always been wrapped since.

As for the stockings at our house, we get more than candy these days. We usually get lots of little gifts. I think I know some ideas Santa has for this year, and I’m sharing them with you here. You can read my posts about stocking stuffers from 2019 (two different posts) by clicking here and here. And here are some new ideas for 2020:

***First, I encourage you to shop local for stocking stuffers. In Charlotte, some great places to check for stocking stuffers are Paper Skyscraper on East Blvd, The Buttercup on Providence Road, and The Mole Hole on Colony Road. It’s important we support our local businesses this year.***

-Face Masks. I know. We are all weary of the COVID pandemic, but if we have to wear face masks, we can at least make them fun! The Buttercup in Charlotte offers a great selection of masks that are functional and fashionable. Visit the store at 343 Providence Road, or shop their website here. In Gainesville and Ocala, Florida, there’s a cute gift shop called Agapanthus that has a crazy cool selection you can purchase online too. See their selection here.

-Portable charger/power bank. If you have someone in your family who flies frequently (in normal non-COVID times) or spends a lot of time outdoors but needs their phone…a portable charger/power bank could be a fantastic stocking stuffer. I remember when they used to be expensive, but now you can get good chargers for less than $30! In fact, I recently flew to California, and I purchased a new portable charger from Amazon. Called the PowerADD Pilot 4GS 12000mAh, I got it for just $22.99 with free delivery because of my Amazon Prime membership. It comes in five colors, and it charged my phone several times before it needed to be recharged. They also make a 20000mAh model, and it’s just $27.59. See them on Amazon here.

Photo from Amazon.com

-More Fun Socks. Yes, I know I listed fun socks last year, but the ones I’m endorsing this year are different than those…but those are still great too. I mentioned Agapanthus in Gainesville and Ocala earlier…well, they have some socks that will make super stocking stuffers! Theirs start at $10.99, and they have a cute selection of holiday-themed socks, Florida socks, and other socks for men and women. Order here.

Photo from shopagapanthus.com

-Cinnabon Signature Frosting Pint. Who knew?!? A friend told me Cinnabon offers this pint of their signature frosting at the holidays for only $7! You know you’ve walked through your local mall and inhaled the deliciousness that is Cinnabon. I have always said I think they have a diffuser full of the aroma sending it out to draw people into Cinnabon. And frankly, whatever it is…it works. Cinnabon is delicious. If you have a Cinnabon lover in your home, this could be a great stocking stuffer! You can get them from by going to your local Cinnabon or through DoorDash or Grubhub.

-Magnetic Eyelashes. Yep. False eyelashes are back, and while some have the patience to sit in a salon to get them, others of us need an easier way to get them. Enter magnetic lashes. I’ve used them. I don’t know if the brand matters, but you can read reviews on Ulta.com or Amazon.com to decide which one sounds best to you!

Lucky Fortune Blind Collectible Bracelets. These cute bracelets come hidden in fortune cookies. Inside each cookie is a surprise bracelet and a fortune. With over 100 bracelets in the offering, there are lots of surprises! These would be great for ages 5 to 15. To add a little fun to it, the packaging is a take-out box! Order a four pack for $10.29 at Amazon with your Prime account and get free shipping. Purchase here.

Photo from Amazon.com

-Hungry Girl Your Daily Bright Boost. Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien devised the formula for this drink mix with the help of the folks at eBoost. With its citrus flavor, vitamins/minerals, and 110mg of natural caffeine, it’s a great way to start the day…or even as an afternoon pick-me-up. Counting calories? No worries! This is from Hungry Girl, the queen of low-cal ideas. This is a great stocking stuffer for teens and adults. It comes in boxes of 15 packets for $24.99, or subscribe and get it for $19.99. You’re likely spending way more than that on coffee, but this actually has nutritional value. Get it here.

Photo from Hungry Girl

-Duncan Imperial YoYo. I remember when Duncan YoYos were advertised on TV during Saturday morning cartoons…back when Saturday morning cartoons were a thing. Remember those all those commercials aimed at kids? I think they had some sort of YoYo champions on the ads, because those kids could do tricks I could never do. I don’t even know if kids today know what a YoYo is, so it’s time for them to learn. Mine teenage daughter will get one of these. Purchase at Amazon here.

Photo from Amazon.com

-Playing Cards. I know. Sounds basic, right? But individuals and families can get hours of fun from a deck of playing cards. Wanna step it up a notch? Get some playing cards featuring the logo of the defunct TransWorld Airways, TWA. The old TWA terminal at JFK Airport in New York has been refurbished and opened as a TWA-themed hotel, and you can order playing cards for $10 from the hotel website. Purchase here.

Photo from TWAhotel.com

-Cheeky Lip Balm. A friend introduced me to these recently. Eclair Lips offers lots of lip balms, but their “Cheeky” line is my favorite. With cheeky names like “Kiss 2020 Goodbye” and “Better Than a Lump of Coal,” these are fun additions to Christmas stockings, and they provide great lip protection for the winter months! Get them at Eclair Lips here.

-Goli ACV Gummies. My husband and I both love these. Do they actually provide any nutritional benefit? I don’t know, but we like them as treats twice a day. I feel like they probably aid my digestion, but I haven’t done any scientific studies…because I’m not a scientist. I had always heard apple cider vinegar had health benefits, but I could never choke it down unless I mixed it with apple juice…lots of sugar and calories in apple juice. These dummies make it easy to get my ACV. Order from Goli here or from Amazon here.

-Jiffy Pop. If you’ve never made Jiffy Pop popcorn, it’s high time you did. When I was a kid, Jiffy Pop was all the rage, and honestly, it’s a lot more fun than microwave popcorn. It’s fun item to drop into everyone’s Christmas stockings…and pop it up on Christmas morning! It had a slogan at one time say it’s “as much fun to make as it is to eat!” We love popcorn at our house, so I know this will be a hit. Purchase at Amazon here.

-Hand sanitizer. I know you’re tired of hearing about hand sanitizer, but hear me out. Everyone knows I love PooPourri toilet sprays, but does everyone know I also love PooPourri hand sanitizers? Did you even know they make them??? Well, they do, and they come in pretty little bottles and have a lovely scent. They are my favorite hand sanitizers, and I just found out they also have sanitizing wipes! I highly recommend PooPourri sanitizers, and they make cute stocking stuffers. Get them here.

Photo from Poopourri.com

Silicone Tea Infuser. Have a hot tea drinker in your family? People who love their tea love their tea. You can help them enjoy their tea with a cute manatee-shaped infuser, the Fred & Friends Manatea Silicone Tea Infuser. Heck I might take up tea drinking, just so I can use one of these! It might seem strange at first, but they can hang this cute little infuser over the edge of their cup or mug, and it won’t let leaves leak out. And who doesn’t love a manatee? But that’s not all they offer! The same company offers a flamingo infuser, an elephant infuser, and a sloth infuser. Order from Amazon here.

Photo from Amazon.com

-School Spirit Morse Code Necklaces. These are so cute! The Buttercup in Charlotte has a selection of necklaces, offered in college colors, with the name of the school or the school’s battle cry (“Roll Tide” anyone?) in morse code. These would be great stocking stuffers for high school seniors, college students, or anyone who loves their college. Priced at $50, these will be well-received. To purchase, visit the store at 343 Providence Road or purchase online here.

-Patchology Eye Gels. Priced at $18 for three pairs of gels, these are a fun, glittery stocking stuffer. They claim to decrease dark circles, combat hyper pigmentation, and brighten skin tone. I hope they do, but they also just feel good on the eyes! Since they are “gently cooling,” I believe they likely reduce puffiness around the eyes. Who wouldn’t love that? Get them at Neiman Marcus here.

Photo from Neimanmarcus.com

-Dazey Coconut and CBD Bath Soak. What sounds better than a hot bath when you need to relax? Add in some coconut and CBD bath soak, and it sounds perfect! Sign me up! Drop this in someone’s Christmas stocking, and you’re giving the gift of relaxation! Get this at Nordstrom for $12 here.

Photo from Nordstrom.com

-Wearable Nail Polish Holder. Lots of people are spending less time at the nail salon during this pandemic, so they’re doing their nails at home. This little wearable nail polish holder from Tweexy, which is worn like a ring, keeps the nail polish bottle in close reach. Genius! Get it at Amazon for $9.99 here.

-Monocular. Sounds weird, I know, but it’s a great gift for outdoorsmen, birdwatchers, and sports fans. Easier to handle than binoculars, a monocular will fit perfectly into a Christmas stocking! I checked on the top-rated ones, and the one I found had the best rating was the Hawke Endurance 8X42 Monocular. It’s a little pricey at just over $100, but it’s waterproof and gets great reviews. And because of that, it’s sold out at a lot of places, but I found it at OpticsPlanet.com for $105. There are less expensive monoculars on Amazon, such as the Starscope…so look around before you buy. My husband is getting one of these. Order from Optics Planet here.

Photo from Optics Planet

-Tabletop Football. Remember the old days when we made paper footballs and played tabletop football using our hands as goalposts? Well, this set from Rhode Island Novelty provides pre-made footballs and plastic goalposts, so there is no question about whether the goal posts were moved. Get it at Amazon for $5.99 here.

So there you have it…my picks for stocking stuffers in 2020. I’ll have one of each, please!

We Survived the Elf

We survived the elf.

Our daughter is 17. When she was a little girl…not sure how old, maybe six or seven…”the elf” appeared at our house. You know…the elf who appears the day after Thanksgiving and stays till Santa takes him/her home with him on Christmas Eve? That elf.

“It will be fun,” my friends said, and they got elves too.

And honestly, it was fun.

For those who are not familiar with The Elf on the Shelf, I will get you up to speed. Parents of small children purchase the elf and pretend it magically appears the day after Thanksgiving…sent by Santa to watch the children and report back nightly to the North Pole. The kids are not allowed to touch the elf, because he will lose his magic. He “magically” flies back to the North Pole every night while the kids are asleep to report to Santa, and when he returns, he lands in a different spot in the house…sometimes doing something mischievous or bringing a small gift. But the big deal is that every morning, he will be somewhere different when the kids wake up, so they have to look for him in the house. At first, it’s a lot of fun trying to come up with new hiding places and new fun ideas…till you forget one night.

Imagine this: kid wakes up and walks downstairs to find the elf hasn’t moved from where he was the day before. The kid is horrified that his elf hasn’t moved and questions the parents about the authenticity of the story behind the elf. Parents have to think on their feet. I came up with this: Oh, honey, it was so foggy last night! The elf couldn’t go back to the North Pole in dense fog! Too dangerous! I’m sure he will go back tonight!

Fast forward to about 2am the next day when I woke up and realized I hadn’t moved the elf again. My pulse rate quickened, and I jumped out of bed to try to hurry up and quietly move the elf…yep, 2am. Don’t even ask how long it took me to go back to sleep.

These things happened all the time at our house. I would forget to move the damn elf and have to come up with another excuse. Here’s a list in case you need it for a future elf fail:

  • There’s the first excuse: the fog was too dense. (LIE)
  • It stormed during the night, but you (kid) didn’t hear it. (LIE)
  • Air traffic had planes backed up in the Charlotte area, so it was too dangerous for him to try to get out past all those planes. (LIE)
  • He must think this hiding place is extra special. (LIE)
  • I think he fell asleep, because he was so tired from flying back and forth the last few nights. (LIE)

Seriously, even little kids will question those lame excuses, but they got me through the situation.

But having to hide one elf wasn’t enough. People gave her elves as gifts! At first, she questioned how people could just give them as gifts…she thought they magically appeared, so I had to explain…after we put him on the shelf the first night, he will get his magic during the night and fly back and forth to the North Pole. But that meant I had more than one elf to move and hide creatively.

Oh, it got more complicated. Our young child started writing notes to her various elves with questions. “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Do you have a girlfriend?” “What is your favorite food?” What is your favorite drink?” “Do you have a pet?” “Who is your best friend?” Oh, the questions went on and on, and she expected answers to every question the next morning. So, as a good mom, I had to sit down and come up with a different handwriting for each elf before I went to bed at night…and I had to remember which elf had which handwriting! Insanity…but yes, a small child would notice a discrepancy in the handwriting. Not kidding…

And to make things more complicated, she heard the elves brought gifts to some children, so of course, there had to be gifts. I went to Target and stocked up on every candy and cheap trinket I could find.

The elves had to be mischievous too. They spilled sugar or flour everywhere. They hid in candy bowls. They went ziplining between the banisters on the stair balcony. They wrote words with toothpaste. They even “came in like a wrecking ball.” I know there are some people who think I shouldn’t be proud of that one…but I’m proud of that one. One elf was sitting on an aluminum foil wrecking ball hung by yarn from our oven door…Miley Cyrus-style. And embarrassingly, our daughter knew exactly what it was. Don’t judge.

One year, at about Thanksgiving, before any elves had arrived for the season, my daughter came running into the kitchen, where I was cooking, with an elf in her hand! She had found it in my nightstand drawer and was confused. “Mommy? Look what I found in your drawer?” I’m good. I’m really good. Without batting an eye, I exclaimed, “He’s here! It’s magic! He knew you were going to look in that drawer tonight! He’s magic!” She bought it…hook, line, and sinker.

But the first year, when we had just one elf, heartbreak struck when we had our daughter’s bedroom painted. We bagged up all her “babies,” the stuffed animals she had collected over her lifetime and put them in the garage for “safe keeping” till the room was finished. No big deal…except, somehow, the bag got thrown away. The heartbreak was real when we discovered it. The tears! She was heartbroken, but I was too…so many memories. I had no idea how some of the “babies” would ever be replaced, but fortunately, I had photos of most of them. I got on eBay that night and started searching…and purchasing. I went anywhere and everywhere I could online to find replacements that night. I know…silly…but right then, it was important. And fortunately, I even had duplicates of a couple of special ones hidden away. So that night, after our daughter fell asleep, I got one of the duplicates from a trunk in the attic and propped it up with her elf for her to find the next morning.

When our daughter woke up and came downstairs the next morning…all puffy-eyed from crying so much before bed…she walked around looking for her elf. He was sitting on the sofa in the living room…with the duplicate rag doll that was identical to something that had been accidentally thrown away. When she found them, her face lit up…and she actually cried tears of joy! And so did I. Eventually, most of the babies were replaced by the elf over the course of the next couple of weeks. She really believed in her elf after that!

We were thankful we had the elf that first year, even though I woke up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night numerous times when I realized I hadn’t moved the elf. His ability to make those “babies” reappear earned him a special place in my heart. And it earned him a special place in our daughter’s heart too.

He was so special, in fact, that after opening gifts and having family lunch on Christmas Day, our daughter just didn’t seem herself. I sat her down and asked if something was wrong. Was she disappointed with her Christmas gifts? And she broke down in tears! She explained to me that no, she wasn’t disappointed with her gifts; she was sad her elf had gone back with Santa!

And you know what I did. I broke every elf rule. I comforted her for a while, and then I went into the kitchen and had a word with my husband, explaining to him that I needed him to go get the elf out of my nightstand drawer when I gave him the cue…and he needed to place it on the dining room table. Oh, I was thinking on the fly. I went back into the living room and told our daughter…so sweet…that since it was still Christmas Day, she could make a Christmas wish, and it might come true. Maybe she should make a wish that he would come back? I got a candle and told her to close her eyes and make a wish, then blow out the candle…close her eyes again and count to 20…slowly. While she did all that, my husband was quietly retrieving the elf and placing it in the dining room. We were breaking all the rules, but who wants to have a desperately unhappy child on Christmas Day?!?! I know…it could have been a valuable teaching moment…whatever. When she opened her eyes, I told her to see if her wish had come true. When she found that elf in the dining room, you’d have thought she had found Santa himself! We had more tears…of joy. And because it was after Christmas, we let her hold that damn elf for the rest of the day. I think he might have even slept in her bed that night. But I told her he could only stay for one more month, and he would likely stay in one place the whole time.

Whew! That was long ago. Go ahead…I get 30 lashes with a wet noodle for breaking every elf rule, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And really…was she harmed psychologically by any of it? No. Does she still believe in the elf at 17? No. In fact, a couple of years ago, a neighbor/friend posted a photo of her child’s elf that had accidentally melted when it was placed too close to a lamp. She put out a desperate plea to see if someone had an elf that looked like it. Guess who did?!?! We did! I asked my daughter if I could give it to them, and she was thrilled to get to save the day! I called my friend and said, “Come get it! It’s yours!” If you have an elf and hate it, just know you’ll get some good memories out of it. One day, you’ll look back on it fondly. And if you need some elf ideas, here are a few pics of some things we did back in the day…